Sunday, September 17, 2006

Second Choices

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately on trying to understand why so many Korean adoptees feel that they are second choices. It was never something that I thought about until recently, but it wasn’t until recently that I started reading blogs by other Korean adoptees. Though, I don’t feel that way myself, I see where they could feel that way and it has now joined my list of worries. Now that I’m a parent of a Korean adoptee and not just an adoptee, I’ve been keeping a very informal list in my head of all the things that I have to worry about.

Admittedly, it probably won’t be a huge problem for my son. In my family, there was never any talk about anything except adopting from Korea. I decided that I was going to adopt my children from Korea when I was ten years old and my husband grabbed that dream without a moment’s hesitation.

In a way, it was the same for me. There were no chapters on infertility in my parents’ story. My father fell in love with the children in Vietnam when he was there during the war. When he married my mother, he told her that he wanted to adopt from Vietnam and, just like my husband, my mother jumped right on board. Saigon fell in 1975 and the last baby lift took off in April. My parents were moved from the Vietnamese adoption list to the Korean adoption list and here I am. I suppose that I could have viewed myself as a second choice since they had planned to adopt from Vietnam originally, but instead I embraced my mother’s theory. When she tells the story, she tells about it as one event after another that lead them to me, because I was the child that they were meant to adopt. The story is not that they had a failed Vietnamese adoption (that doesn’t come up). The emphasis is always that these were just blips along the timeline that led to me.

When I read the stories of other Korean adoptees and how they felt like they were second choices, my initial reaction was that they were being too sensitive. However, I kept thinking about it and then I started listening to the people around me. So many of the parents of Korean adoptees that I know have gone through a whole serious of trials that I can not hope to understand. Many talk about the infertility treatments that didn’t work and failed domestic adoptions. Then, you hear them talk about turning to international adoption. I was reading on one of the message boards the other day and it finally hit me – I understand why Korean adoptees could feel like second choices.

I’m not saying that they are second choices. In most cases, I can say with surety, that they aren’t. I’m saying that I understand how they could feel that way. I can see how thinking this could eat away at a person until there is no room for believing it’s any other way. It certainly doesn’t help that we have ignorant people out there, who view Korean adoption as a second choice instead of a valid option. Every time someone makes a big deal about you “having” to adopt instead of “choosing” to adopt or someone asks you if you couldn’t have children of your own, it would reinforce that society views adoption as a last resort.

It’s one more issue that we have to think about as parents of Korean adoptees – one more thing that we have to stay in front of for our children’s sake. Korean adoptees are not second choices. We are first choices. However, sometimes, our parents had to take a winding path to find us.



Sara said...

Thank you for writing this, Mo. I have wanted to adopt a child since I was about 11 years old, when my best friend's sister came home from India. It seemed to me a beautiful way to build a family, and when I married him, my husband jumped on board with the plan. For financial reasons we tried for a pregnancy first, thinking we would adopt our second child. As it turned out we're both infertile, but doctors could have been aggressive in trying to achieve a pregnancy for us. We walked away from the doctors and clinics without ever looking back, becasue we knew from the very beginning that adoption wasn't second best, or a second choice. For us it was the first choice that just got delayed in the 'windng path' of our lives. I hope my son sees it this way as he grows up.

Andrew said...

I bet this is also a worry for other adoptees as well, including those who are adopted within their own country of origin. I haven't lived through it, but the stresses must be real and numerous. I hope you find the answers you are hoping for.

To Love, Honor and Dismay

Cynthia said...

I think this is a common fear of all adoptive parents, me included. My husband and I tried for a year to get pregnant. But a series of events following that year lead us to adoption. As a result of 9/11, my husband re-enlisted in the Marine Corps and we moved to Camp Lejeune. We decided to put our family plans on hold until we were established in our new town. He was deployed to Iraq, I was diagnosed with cancer, and we met wonderful friends who were in process for their second daughter from China. I didn't really know anything about adoption until I met them.

After his return from Iraq and 2 surgeries, we knew in about 30 seconds worth of discussion that adoption was how we would build our family. Was Korea the first country we thought of? No. We reserached several countries, but after learning a bit about Korea, it felt right. There was a great peace about adopting from Korea. I can't really explain it, but it was a feeling like any other...we knew that our child was going to be born there.

a fellow kad said...

Having spoken with many Koreans/Korean Americans on this issue, I'm more inclined to say that in many KA's eyes, we are second choice.

"thinking about adopting even if you can have kids of your own?"

"if both my wife and I were sterile, I would adopt... from Korea."

"how can you so easily say that you'd adopt if you can have kids of your own?"

"to be honest with you, i think that the only value judgement i am making is that i'd prefer to have my own kids first. only if this is not possible would i adopt."

"overall, i guess i am placing the value of a biological child above the value of an adoptee in the sense that in the future, i'd prefer to rear children from my own genes as opposed to having to adopt. i think it's only natural to want your own kids before you want someone else's."

"Home grown is obviously better. It's natural, and it's really your gift or curse to the world. However, if home grown isn't an option or you really feel the need to adopt, that wouldn't be all that bad either."

-- all of those are direct quotes from Koreans/Korean Americans our age... meaning in their late 20's - late 30's. Of course there are many who would adopt regardless of having birth children or not.

I'm not endorsing any point of view b/c imo it's all perspective. I just wanted to present a bit of a different look. Do I feel like a second choice... no, not unless something like this is pointed out to me. At that point tho, I will usually fight back, which I did with these individuals.

Thanks for the topic. Nice to hear myself talk. =P Having written all of this, no need for a reply as I will probably not be back... I'm just passing through. Blessings. said...

I appreciate you raising this issue. As the mother of a 5-year-old boy born in South Korea, it's something that comes up a lot more than people talk about or think. It is the basis for most "adoption books" available to read to my son, is the foundation for many adoption conferences, and is certainly the main public perception of us as an adoptive family.

From a young age, I wanted to adopt. I cannot explain this feeling but it was something that was true for me as long as I can remember. I followed this desire with studies of international adoption in both my undergraduate and graduate work in history, studying mainly the origins of international adoption in this country and the ways images of children have been used during periods of international conflict.(Specifically, Korea and Vietnam.)

Needless to say, this put my at odds with many in the adoption community.Often, my husband and I feel like there is little place for our family in the conferences and other adoption-related gatherings we have chosen to attend.
For us, infertility was not an issue. I had always known that adoption was my path to parenting, and for my husband, that was as valid and wonderful a path as anything else. I mentioned my disconnect with the infertility issue on a adoption listserve once and was roundly attacked by several people--all adoptive parents--who told me I was coming to parenting from the "Savior" perspective, told me that I was being insensitive, and accused me of a holier-than-though attitude. All I had said was that some of us come to adoption with excitement and happiness that is not post-grief, and that we need to be recognized as a valid part of the adoption community. We can recognize that our children's journey begins with a loss, but that ours does not necessarily come from that same place. I mentioned being tired of going to conferences where the first part of adoption was "grieving your infertility." I don't feel connected to organizations like RESOLVE, nor do I feel like I should have to.

One woman, who shall remain nameless but who is often noted as a leading adoption speaker, wrote a vicious attack and went so far as to tell me that she planned on "outing" me to a listserve of Korean adoptees and that she eagerly awaited their telling me off because of my saviour attitude.

I do not mean to indicate insensitivity to those who come to adoption from paths other than ours. Instead, I seek a means by which all roads toward family are considered to be of equal value. (Even my mother-in-law, after meeting our son, said that she thought this would encourage us to "have your own.")

Tangentially, we also feel at odds with several friends who chose intensive infertility treatments and did not even consider adoption as a legitimate means to growing their families.

Where does this put my son? I'm not sure. I don't know what he will think about our decisions or the means by which we made them. I hope that he will feel as though we made choices based on our sense that our child was out there, and it was a matter of our coming together somehow. I fantasize about he and I writing a book where adoption does not begin with "Mommy couldn't make a baby--so we got you."
Right now, at 5, he basically doesn't want to read anything that doesn't involve scientific exploration, slimy critters of some kind, or exploding volcanoes. And for now, that's what's more important.

Thank you again.

Adoptionx4 said...

I was adopted back in the 70's and I never had any issues growing up or now. My husband and I are in the waiting period for a child from Korea. I know some adopted Korean children feel second fiddle but for me, never. My upbrining was amazing, my mother and father were very open and understanding. As long as you stay open with your son and answer his questions and concerns honestly he will do great